In her first in-depth interview since Labour’s stunning local election victory, Cardiff council’s leader elect Heather Joyce spoke to Peter Law about taking on her first paid job in decades.
Clutching a framed front page of Saturday’s South Wales Echo, “supernan” Heather Joyce is a picture of pride in her new office at County Hall.
The 62-year-old was given the framed copy by her daughter, Kathryn Sweet, as a memento of the night Labour seized back control of Cardiff council for the first time in eight years.
The Llanrumney grandmother plans to hang it in her cavernous office – vacated by outgoing Liberal Democrat leader Rodney Berman earlier this week – which she jokes is bigger than her house.
Mr Berman sensationally lost his seat on Friday when Labour exceeded even their own expectation to storm back into power with 46 councillors – well above the 38 needed for a majority.
“By 10pm on Friday night, I was shattered and my phone was going, I just went to bed. I got up the following morning and I had all these texts and missed calls saying ‘You want to see the Echo’,” Councillor Joyce said yesterday.
“We had opened a new park in Llanrumney, I was down there as a volunteer and as I keep being told ‘you are only a volunteer down here’, which is good.
“I got home and my daughter had put it in the frame and she had done one for herself and one for her brother in Singapore. They are very proud, but they have all been a tremendous support and I am equally proud of them. I have been very emotional, it was such a fantastic result as well.”
The Llanrumney Community Forum volunteer, originally from Hirwaun, admits she was surprised at the scale of Labour’s victory.
“It was down to me Peter,” she jokes, before adding: “In the beginning, it was on local issues and people were disillusioned, but it did change and it was national (politics) as well, I do accept that.”
Coun Joyce’s position as council leader, as well as the members of her cabinet, will be officially confirmed at a meeting of the full council next Thursday.
Asked what qualities she will bring to the role, Coun Joyce – who was first elected Llanrumney ward councillor just four years ago – said: “I will carry on being myself.
“I have got a bit of a sense of humour, I hope, I’ve got compassion and I will carry on being me and doing the best for Cardiff,” she said, insisting she would “hope” to be a different leader compared to Mr Berman.
“I will be listening to people, I want to be approachable. I want people to feel that no matter what party, you know, I can be approached. I might not agree with what they are saying, but I won’t be dismissive.”
Being leader of Wales’ largest local authority – a £1bn organisation – is her first “massive job” and her first paid work since leaving school and working at the Co-op stores in Trecynon and Hirwaun.
“It is going to be a big difference, it’s no good me saying any different,” she says of the impact being leader will have on her personal life.
“These first couple of weeks are very, very busy, but I’m hoping that when time allows, with my husband perhaps he can come down and we can at least go and get a bit of lunch together.
“I was always exceptionally busy as a Llanrumney councillor, so yes it’s going to make a big difference but hopefully I’ll cope – I will cope. I’m looking forward to it.”